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A superficial listening of American High’s music is sure to spread the colourful contagion of their brand of pop punk. The trademark harmonies, tight vocals, and head-bopping chord progressions will pique the interest of anyone with even a passing interest in the genre.
What sets them apart, however, is an avowed interest in human rights. A feature which raises the artistic bar of the music. That’s not to say that the more familiar traits popularised by everyone from the Ramones to Blink-182 aren’t worthy, but this quality of American High brings punk back to its core emotion – anger.
U.N. Article 14 is the full-length extension of last summer’s single, ‘Cheye Calvo’, which explored the injustice of legally dubious police raids in the US. The LP is packed with politically charged tracks inspired by both historical and ongoing human rights situations. Most notably, the refugee crisis at the southern US border.
Not one to mince words, bandleader Doug Terry explained the sentiment behind these new tunes in a recent interview:
“Each time an asylum seeker is turned away, we as a nation have committed another crime against humanity.”
“I mean, come on. Even if a stranger on the street stumbled up to you bloody and terrified, afraid to go home to an abusive situation, wouldn’t you do something to help? Call the cops? Pay for a place for her to be safe? Find a shelter?”
Thematic considerations aside, there’s some fantastic guitar work featured here. The band’s signature crunch chugs along on hard-hitting tracks like ‘Second Sister’, ‘Test Pilot, and the title track. Combined with top tier production quality, it has a sonic appeal comparable to all the pop-punk greats through Green Day and beyond.
With ballads like ‘I Can’t Change’ and ‘1.17.61’, the group finds a way to showcase their melodic prowess. Sweet, simplistic riffs provide the platform for infectious harmonies and crowd-pleasing choruses.
Exchanging political for traditional, ‘Fairfield, CA’, is an upbeat, jangly love tune with soaring backing vocals and irresistibly corny lyrics. Well-placed in the track listing, this one offers the perfect buffer for more challenging lyrical content found elsewhere.
U.N. Article 14 is a big step forward for an act fast gaining traction. Using music as a vehicle for activism has an established history and a powerful track record. American High’s activist slant is very welcome, given how lacking activist-oriented punk is in the present day.